COMPANY ROOTS

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Company Roots

Patensie Citrus can trace its roots back to 1928, when the Bo-Gamtoos Co-operative Company was formed.

Integral to the history of citrus in the Gamtoos Valley is the Bean family. Thomas and Edith Bean planted the first citrus seed in 1885 on their farm Ferndale just outside Patensie in the Gamtoos Valley. Farmers became interested in the citrus and very soon the Bean nursery was selling hundreds of small trees to the surrounding farmers at 2 shillings each.

The first 139 wooden cases of oranges were transported by Thomas Bean and his sons by means of ox-wagon to the Loerie station in 1908, from where it was exported to England.

Up until the middle 1920’s, several Gamtoos citrus producers entered the export market on their own and on a small scale – each of them under the watchful eyes of the government entomologists and their fruit inspectors.

The Bo-Gamtoos Co-operative Company was formed in 1928. Initially no central packing of citrus was done. Producers still packed their own fruit, local as well as export, but the forming of the co-operative led to fruit being exported under 2 trademarks only – Bo-Gamtoos Co-operative under the Canyon trademark and the Patensie Co-operative under the Apollo trademark.

After the forming of the two co-operatives and with the support of the late minister, Charlie Malan, there was a tremendous increase in the planting of citrus, and farmers started to focus more on the export market.

The two co-operatives amalgamated on 13 February 1943 to form Patensie Co-operative Citrus Company Limited.

Bigger harvests necessitated a central pack-house in the Gamtoos Valley. Patensie Co-operative led the way and bought premises of one morgen in 1937 at Patensie. The building of corrugated iron and wood on the premises (previously used for storage of tobacco) served as a citrus pack-house for several years. A total of 43 600 export cases – 8 700 x 15kg cartons and 28 000 bags were packed the first year.

The Second World War broke out in 1939 and brought export to a halt. The war years were difficult and labour scarce. Export was impossible since so many ships were sunk by German submarines and others had to carry war supplies.

A big dream was realised in 1957 when a modern double-storey pack-house, as well as a new pillar office block was commissioned. The new, modern packing lines tripled the old pack-house’s daily capacity.

The arrival of the Kouga Dam in 1967 and the canal system provided almost unlimited irrigation water and increased the developable agricultural land, threefold.

The seventies brought several improvements and an increase in harvests. PAKSAAM Nursery was launched to ensure first grade trees. Thanks to the support of the then Outspan farm and the commitment of technicians, new cultivars were developed on Paksaam Farm, amongst others Midknights and the soft skin Nova. The latest research results are tested here before recommendations are made to Patensie Citrus Ltd. shareholders.

Thousands of rands were budgeted each year, since 1980, for upgrading, extensions and addition of facilities on the same one morgen that was bought back in 1937. Between 1983 and 1986 successful negotiations with Patensie Development Company took place for the purchase of their land adjacent to the Patensie School grounds. The premises extended over 11 ha and an additional adjacent 3 ha was also bought. After several overseas visits and substantial research the design of the new pack-house was decided.

The new citrus pack-house of the Patensie Citrus Co-operative was officially commissioned on Friday, 31 August 1990.

Approximately 50% of the harvest was packed at the old pack-house for several years thereafter. The “Blue roof pack-house’s” third packing line was completed and commissioned with own expertise and labour in 1992/1993.

The Board’s recommendation for the construction of another modern pack-house was approved on a special member meeting during 1997. The benefit of the latest available technology and machinery in the new “White roof pack-house” led to the successful packing of soft citrus, as well as the packing of all varieties for the most selective market requirements. The new “White roof pack-house” was commissioned in 1999.

 

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